3When representatives meetat the World Food Summitthey supposedly focus onhow to get food into themouths of nearly onebillion people who arecurrently undernourished.However, at all the dinnersthey attend you can expect to see theconsumption of large quantities of meat.And herein lies the contradiction.People go hungry because much of arableland is used to grow feed grain for animalsrather than people. In the US, 157 milliontons of cereals, legumes and vegetableprotein – all suitable for human consumption– is fed to livestock to produce just 28 milliontons of animal protein in the form of meat.In developing countries, using land to createan artificial food chain has resulted in miseryfor hundreds of millions of people. An acreof cereal produces five times more proteinthan an acre used for meat production;legumes such as beans, peas and lentils canproduce 10 times more protein and, in thecase of soya, 30 times more.Global corporations which supply the seeds,chemicals and cattle and which control theslaughterhouses, marketing and distributionof beef, eagerly promote grain-fed livestock.They equate it with a country’s prestige andclimbing the “protein ladder” becomes themark of success.Enlarging their meat supply is the first stepfor all developing countries. They start withchicken and egg production and, as theireconomies grow, climb the protein ladder topork, milk, and dairy products, then to grass-fed beef and finally to grain-fed beef.Encouraging this process advances theinterests of agribusinesses and two-thirds ofthe grain exported from the USA goes tofeed livestock. The process really gotunderway when “green revolution”technology produced grain surpluses in the1970s. The UN’s Food and AgriculturalOrganisation encouraged it and the USAgovernment linked its food aid programmeto the producing of feed grain and gave low-interest loans to establish grain-fed poultryoperations. Many nations have attempted toremain high on the protein ladder long afterthe grain surpluses disappeared.Human consequences of the shift from foodto feed were dramatically illustrated duringthe Ethiopian famine in 1984. While peoplestarved, Ethiopia was growing linseed cake,cottonseed cake and rapeseed meal forEuropean livestock. Millions of acres of landin the developing world are used for thispurpose. Tragically, 80 per cent of the world’shungry children live in countries with foodsurpluses which are fed to animals forconsumption by the affluent.The irony is that millions of consumers in thefirst world are dying from diseases ofaffluence such as heart attacks, strokes,diabetes and cancer, brought on by eatinganimal products, while the world’s poor aredying from diseases of poverty. We are longoverdue for a global discussion on how topromote a diversified, high-protein,vegetarian diet for the human race.
Jeremy Rifkin is the author of Beyond Beef:The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture(Plume, 1992), and The Biotech Century (Victor Gollancz,1998). He is also the president of the Foundation on EconomicTrends in Washington DC, USA.
espite the rich diversity of foods foundall over the world, one third of itspopulation does not have enough toeat. Today, hunger is a massive problem inmany parts of Africa, Asia and South Americaand the future is not looking good. Theglobal population is set to rise from 6.5billion (2006) to 9.3 billion by 2050 (2) andWorldwatch reports (3) forecast severe globalfood shortages leading to famine on anunprecedented scale.This misery is partly adirect result of our desireto eat meat. Children inthe developing worldstarve next to fields offood destined for exportas animal feed, to supportthe meat-hungry culturesof the rich world. Whilemillions die, one third ofthe world's grainproduction is fed tofarmed animals in richcountries (4).If animal farming were tostop and we were to usethe land to grow grain tofeed ourselves, we couldfeed every single personon this planet. Consumingcrops directly - rather than feeding them toanimals and then eating animals - is a farmore efficient way to feed the world. This
Guide looks at why eating meat is amajor cause of world hunger and howvegetarianism can provide a solution.
The roots of hunger
The developing world hasn't always beenhungry. Early explorers of the 16th and 17thcenturies often returned amazed at the hugeamounts of food they saw there. In parts ofAfrica, for example, people always had threeharvests in storage and no-one went hungry.The idea of buying and selling food wasunheard of.The Industrial Revolution changed all that.European countries needed cheap rawmaterials such as coal and iron ore thatdeveloping countries had plenty of. Throughthe process of invasion and colonisation,Western countries could not only take theraw materials but claim the land as their ownand make the indigenouspeople pay taxes or rent.Poor peasants (many ofwhom had never dealt inmoney before) wereforced to grow crops suchas cotton to sell to theirnew masters. Wealthycountries owned the land,all the food that wasproduced, and decidedthe price. After payingtaxes, peasants had littlemoney left to buy thisexpensive food and oftenended up borrowingmoney simply to live. Thiswhole process ofcolonisation continuedright up to the beginningof the last century.
Drought and other 'natural' disasters are oftenwrongly blamed for causing famines. Localpeople have always planned for freak acts ofnature and although they may be the triggerthat starts a famine, the underlying cause isthe system of modern day neo-colonialism.The land in poor countries is still largely notowned by the people who work on it andrents are high. Huge areas are owned bylarge companies based in the West. It iscommon for people to be thrown off theland, often going to the towns where there
Meat makes the rich ill and thepoor hungry
“The earth hasenough foreveryone’s needs,but not for somepeople’s greed.”~ Mahatma Gandhi(1869 - 1948)(1)
P h o t o : V i t h a l b h a i J h a v e r i / G a n d h i S e r v e D e s i g n : S u s s e d D e s i g n . C o v e r p h o t o s : O x f a m . P r i n t e d o n r e c y c l e d p a p e r .